Less than two weeks ago, on October 1, Stephen Paddock opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. He used a number of weapons, including those he fitted with what are called bump stocks. This opened up a nationwide debate about bump stocks. What are they? How do they work? Let’s break it down. 

What is a bump stock?

These devices enable a semiautomatic rifle to fire faster, more closely resembling a fully automatic weapon. A ‘bump stock’ replaces a rifle’s standard stock, which is the part held against the shoulder. It frees the weapon to slide back and forth rapidly, harnessing the energy from the kickback shooters feel when the weapon fires.”

Are they illegal?

By definition, a bump stock enables a semiautomatic to function, and act, more similarly to a fully automatic weapon. However, it does not transform a weapon into a fully automatic. This is an important distinction because fully automatic weapons, of any kind, are illegal in the United States. They have been since 1986 under the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act, or the McClure-Volkmer.

This act, which can be read in full here, outlaws machine guns, and “imposes additional penalties, under certain circumstances, for: (1) the use of a firearm during certain drug trafficking crimes; (2) the use of a machine gun during the commission of a crime; and (3) the use of a firearm equipped with a silencer during the commission of a crime.”

This just outlines a small portion of this bill. It encompasses many other principles, including the banning of fully automatic weapons. This act is important. It is often cited and discussed in the media, but it is often not actually read or analyzed.

What is Congress going to do about bump stocks?

Since the shooting, a bipartisan bill, authored by Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) and Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), has emerged that would ban the manufacture, sale, and use of  bump stocks. The bill would also include anything similar that is designed to increase the rate of fire but doesn’t convert a semi-automatic rifle into an automatic weapon. There are a number of penalties with this bill, and a number of Democrats and Republicans have already signed on. Only time will tell if this bill will actually become law. Either way, the bill is instrumental in the gun control debate that is dominating our political landscape.

Where does the NRA stand on bump stocks?

Recently, the National Rifle Association came out in favor of restricting the sale and use of these bump stocks, which came as a surprise to many. A number of Republicans have come forward stating that they would be interested in looking into and addressing the sale and use of bump stocks. Some of the most notable include John Cornyn of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Orrin Hatch of Utah, and Marco Rubio of Florida. There were also a number that have expressed concern or who are opposed to it, including Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, John Neely Kennedy of Louisiana, Mike Lee of Utah, Richard Shelby of Alabama, and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania. According to a recent NPR-Ipsos poll, approximately 82% of Americans support a ban, or restriction on bump stocks.

After 58 people lost their lives, and more than 500 others were injured, there is no down that the debate on bump stocks is an important one, and one that is here to stay. No matter where you stand on the gun control debate, the tragic loss of life is one that will not be taken lightly. The realities of bump stocks is one that will surely be addressed by the public, the media, and Congress in the coming weeks and months.

Joleen T
FFL Contributor
Joleen is a Contributor at FFL. She enjoys reading, going to Chipotle, and drinking copious amounts of coffee. You can find her at the library, or studying for the LSAT. Her goal is to become a lawyer, and eventually run for public office. Her role models are Nikki Haley and Sandra Day O’Connor.

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